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International Studies Education

Study Abroad

 

Returning Students

 

Say no to ‘shoeboxing’!

Shoeboxing is mentally compartmentalizing your
experience abroad as a completely or largely separate part of your college experience. 

Rather, find ways to incorporate
your experience into your personal, social and
academic life!

Returning to the US after having studied abroad may not be as easy as you think.  In fact, the reentry shock can be more severe and debilitating than the initial adjustment to the host culture.  You may very well experience ‘reverse culture shock’.

 

Here are some of the issues you may confront as you readjust to life in the States:

 

Personal Growth & Change
You are likely to be more mature, self-confident and self-reliant than you were before studying abroad.  Yet, after returning home, you may have difficulty reconciling your new self with your old self, and you may experience feelings of alienation and loss of identity.

 

New Knowledge & Skills
Just as your attitudes and worldviews probably changed while you were abroad, you also developed new knowledge and skills.  You may feel frustrated if you perceive that these new skills are of little use in your home culture.

 

Changed Relationship with Family & Friends
One of the most difficult reentry issues to deal with is the lack of interest that friends and family may have in hearing about your international experiences.  Moreover, you may feel irritated that friends and family members did not change at all while you were away, or that they expect you to be the same person you were before you went abroad. 

 

Lifestyle Adjustments
You may have difficulty adjusting to the pace of life at home, which may be quite different from the one you grew accustomed to abroad.  This may leave you feeling out-of-control and unsettled, and you may have difficulty adjusting to the academic routine back at Neumann.

 

Feeling Critical of American Society
Travel abroad can open your eyes to values, customs and ideologies that may conflict with how things are done at home.  Common issues include aversion to American materialism, consumerism and wastefulness. 

 

Facing Career and Postgraduation Decisions
While abroad, you may not have thought much about your future plans.  Your return home then may bring with it some anxiety about planning for the future.  Additionally, your experience abroad may have influenced you to think about career paths that you had not previously considered.

 

Fear of ‘Losing’ the International Experience
Once home, your experience abroad may quickly feel long ago and far away, which may lead to feelings of frustration or apprehension.

 

Other Emotional Issues
Like other returnees, you may feel bored, lonely, isolated, anxious or irritable.  You may have difficulty articulating your feelings and you may feel disoriented or overly emotional. You may also sleep too much or too little, or feel homesick for your host country. 

 

Although this may be a very stressful experience for you, there is a positive side to the reentry process.   For example, this may help you gain perspective on your experience and creatively find ways to incorporate aspects of your host culture into your personality and home life.  (Try journaling to learn which of the above issues are affecting you most dramatically!) Reentry can, thus, be a time of immense personal growth and change.

 

Click on this link for a great reentry resource www.pacific.edu/sis/culture/  See Module 2. (From NAFSA’s Guide to Education Abroad) 

 

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